Worried about your child's flu symptoms but don't want to risk a visit to a germ-infested waiting room?
A free interactive Web site from the American Medical Association, built with partners Microsoft and personal health record provider Healthy Circles, may be able to help.
The website, AMAfluhelp.org, offers information about seasonal and H1N1 pandemic flu and gives advice on when to seek a doctor's help.
Unlike sites like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's CDC.gov and flu.gov, this website allows doctors to communicate with patients. Eventually, it will permit doctors to prescribe routine medications online.
During the H1N1 pandemic, the website may help ease the crush of calls to doctors from worried parents and patients and help identify those who need treatment, said Dr. Mary Anne McCaffree, a pediatrician from Oklahoma City and member of the AMA board.
"If you had 25 or so phone calls a day to your office and now you're having 1,000 calls, it is very hard to find the needle in the haystack to see who is the very sickest," McCaffree said in a telephone interview.
The website's introduction during the H1N1 flu pandemic has made it especially useful, offering a way to protect healthier patients from exposure to swine flu by keeping them out of clinic waiting rooms, she said.
The information is based on the latest CDC flu guidelines, which do not account for other potential infections that cause flu-like symptoms, such as group A streptococcus, which is responsible for "strep throat" and can be treated with antibiotics.
For cases like that, parents will still need use their own judgment, said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC.